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Why do so many doctors make prescribing errors?

On Behalf of | Feb 4, 2024 | Medical Malpractice

One of the main functions of a modern physician is to serve as a gatekeeper for controlled substances. Physicians have the authority to recommend or prescribe drugs to treat someone’s symptoms. They usually also need to oversee the administration of that treatment to ensure the well-being of the patient.

Unfortunately, prescribing errors are more common than people realize. Doctors prescribe medications to patients that they should not take due to contraindications. They might recommend a drug that could cause a dangerous interaction with a prescription they currently take. They might also fail to monitor a patient’s reaction to the drug and ensure that they terminate their use of the medication appropriately.

Physicians receive significant training about different medications and are subject to oversight regarding their prescribing practices. Why are medication errors so common despite the systems in place to protect patients?

Modern doctors are subject to intense professional pressure

There was a time not so long ago when medical professionals had an intimate relationship with each of their patients. They would treat entire families and could use the information they knew about someone’s parents or other relatives to better guide the care that they provided. They might provide care for someone from their childhood into their adult years.

That time has long since passed. Physicians now usually work for large corporate employers. They are under intense pressure to make as much money for those businesses as possible. Doing so typically requires that they see as many patients as possible each day and carry a massive patient caseload.

Physicians now often oversee the treatment of more than a thousand different patients. Some estimates indicate that the average patient load has crept up closer to 2,000 patients, and some doctors have far more people under their care than that. It is simply impossible for a physician to know someone’s personal history and family history when they have that many patients in their care.

They might recommend treatment options that are dangerous given someone’s background or prior medical experiences. The pressure to see as many patients as possible also limits a physician’s ability to review someone’s medical records during an appointment. They could therefore potentially overlook warning signs of prior adverse reactions to medications or other contraindications that might otherwise inspire them to formulate a different treatment plan.

Recognizing why prescription errors are so common in modern medical facilities could motivate some patients to pursue a malpractice claim when a doctor makes a medication-related mistake and harm occurs as a result.